The elaborate scandal that brought down the Welsh Labor leader

They say a photo tells a thousand stories. If so, one must wonder about the sad picture of the Welsh First Minister shaking and sobbing in the Senedd this week.

On Wednesday, Labour’s new incumbent Vaughan Gething, 50, lost a vote of no confidence, just 78 days after his controversial appointment in March. It caused him to cry in front of his colleagues and – some would say – utter extremely rare words of contrition.

The reason? In February, during his leadership campaign, it emerged that Gething had received two £100,000 donations from a major environmental company convicted of pollution.

Dauson Environmental Group, whose director is Welsh businessman David John Neal, 63, has been convicted of environmental crimes on several occasions, with its companies fined and ordered to pay costs totaling more than £400,000.

But in the new year Neal increased Gething’s campaign coffers by a total of £200,000. Despite repeated calls from Labor colleagues and opponents to return the money, Gething has steadfastly refused. The £200,000 donation represents around 80 per cent of the £254,000 Gething has spent in total. And it ranks as one of the largest donations in Welsh political history. To put it into context, his opponent Jeremy Miles was only able to raise £58,800 from all donors in the same period.

It is – according to conservative rivals who subsequently triggered the no-confidence vote – a sad story of pollution, corruption and filth. Here – in photos – we tell the story.

Gwent Levels

Gwent Levels

The picturesque Gwent Levels area, between Cardiff and Newport, is home to many rare species and a variety of waterfowl – Alamy

The problems started in 2013 on the picturesque Gwent Levels, between Newport and Cardiff. The wetland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), full of rare species such as otters, grass snakes and marsh harriers. It also supports a variety of wetland birds, such as curlews and oystercatchers.

The garbage


Two companies owned by millionaire David John Neal were found to have illegally stored 19,000 tonnes of waste on a site in the Gwent Levels area

However, in 2013, two companies owned by millionaire David John Neal and based in the area were found to have broken environmental laws. One of these, Atlantic Recycling, has illegally stored 19,000 tonnes of waste in a field near Neal’s farm in Wentloog. In a further breach of regulations, he was found to have spread food wastewater and dairy waste across a field at his soil separation business, Neal Soil Suppliers, causing a stink for local residents.

Convicted criminal

David John NealDavid John Neal

David John Neal received a three-month suspended prison sentence in 2013 for violating environmental regulations – Richard Swingler

Following a year-long investigation by Natural Resource Wales (NRW), Neal appeared at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court in 2013, where he personally pleaded guilty to breaches of environmental regulations and also pleaded guilty on behalf of his two companies to depositing waste likely to would lead to harmful consequences. cause pollution of the environment or damage to human health.

He was given a three-month suspended prison sentence and fined £10,000, while his two companies were each fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £51,000 in costs each. The court heard that “substantial and serious pollution” leaked toxic liquid into the water.


David John NealDavid John Neal

Neal was found guilty again in 2017 for failing to remove the original waste from his property and was accused of ‘disrespect’ for the environment – Richard Swingler

In 2017, Neal was back in court and this time pleaded guilty to failing to remove waste from his site as he was ordered to do in 2013. He was given another 18-week suspended sentence, with his two companies hit with fines and fines. cost a total of £230,000. NRW’s Jon Goldsworthy said at the time: “Despite our efforts to work with David John Neal and the companies he operates, he continues to show a lack of respect for the rules we enforce and for the health of the environment. ”

Atlantic Recycling was back in court in January 2023, pleading guilty again at Cardiff Crown Court to failing to comply with its environmental permit. The offense is said to date from July 2019. The sentence will be determined in December this year.


Vaughan GethingVaughan Gething

In February 2024, it was reported that Neal had given Gething’s leadership campaign a donation of around £200,000 – Reuters

In autumn 2018, Gething received £38,000 from two of Neal’s companies – Atlantic Recycling and Neal Soil Suppliers – when he stood as a candidate to become Welsh Labor leader. A few months earlier, in the spring of 2018, Gething wrote to NRW in support of his friend’s efforts to build a lucrative water treatment and biomass boiler at one of his sites. He said: “I’m not sure how further delay can be justified.”

But according to reports in the BBC, Atlantic Recycling again pleaded guilty at Cardiff Crown Court in January this year to failing to operate in accordance with its permit. The offense allegedly dates back to July 2019. The company is currently awaiting a conviction. In February 2024, it was reported that Neal had given Gething’s leadership campaign a donation of around £200,000. He received £100,000 on December 18, 2023 and £100,000 on January 11, 2024 from Neal’s parent company Dauson Environmental Group Ltd. In the same month the story broke, Atlantic Recycling was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £29,000 costs for health and safety breaches in February after a worker, Anthony Bilton, tragically died in the event of a collision with a large excavator. Judge Neal Thomas told Merthyr Tydfil magistrates there was “no excuse” for its shortcomings.

Conflict of interest?

Gwent LevelsGwent Levels

Neal submitted a proposal earlier this year to build a 67 hectare “solar park” covering some of the last remaining green fields in the Gwent Levels – Alamy

Interestingly, Neal submitted a planning application to the Welsh Government in January this year – at the same time as he gave the second of the £100,000 donations to Gething. His proposal was to build a 67 hectare “solar park” that would cover some of the last remaining green fields in this sensitive part of the Gwent levels. An environmental impact assessment submitted as part of the application found that the development would impact the SSSI. But because the businessman claimed the project was “a development of national importance”, the outcome would be decided not by local planning officials, but by ministers from Gething’s own government. The application is still being processed.

It has also emerged that in 2021, after leaving his health job, Gething was put in charge of improving Wales’ post-Covid economy. In this role he oversaw the Welsh Development Bank, set up to lend taxpayers’ money to businesses to boost the economy. Last February the bank decided to lend Neal Soil Suppliers £400,000 to finance the purchase of a solar farm. Gething denies any involvement.

More stinky

David John NealDavid John Neal

Another of Neal’s companies, Resources Management Ltd, has faced pollution allegations: Richard Swingler

Meanwhile, another Neal company, Resources Management Ltd, which manages the Withyhedge landfill near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, has also faced pollution allegations.

Locals have complained for years about the foul odors that can be smelled from up to five miles away, likening the site to a “stink bomb on steroids”. Water quality activists have also raised concerns that liquid discharges from above could have a detrimental effect on local streams and rivers. Others complain that air quality monitoring is not done by impartial regulators, but in fact by another Neal company.


Lee WatersLee Waters

Former Transport Minister Lee Waters said he was ‘deeply uncomfortable’ with the donation – Alamy

Since news of the donations broke, Gething has been plagued by calls from colleagues and opposing party members to return the money or resign. Mabon ap Gwynfor of Plaid Cymru wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “The situation is intolerable and unseemly. Gething must do the right thing: return the money and distance itself from this company.” Meanwhile, former Transport Minister Lee Waters said on May 1 during heated debate in the Senedd that he felt “very uncomfortable” with the donation.

Starmer’s response

Keir Starmer and Vaughan GethingKeir Starmer and Vaughan Gething

Labor leader Keir Starmer says he has ‘absolute’ confidence in Gething – PA

During a recent visit to Wales, Starmer defended Gething and said he had broken no rules over the donations. He says he has “absolute” confidence in him. This happened despite it also emerging last month that Gething had told ministers in a group chat in August 2020 that he was deleting WhatsApp messages relating to the government’s handling of Covid. At the time he was Minister of Health; he said he was aware that they could come under scrutiny in the future and that is why he wanted to get rid of them. This later led to the resignation of Hannah Blythyn, the minister he believed was responsible for the leak that exposed him. A spokesperson for the Covid Inquiry confirmed it had been made aware of the leaked message and was considering whether Gething should provide further information. Gething has denied that the message contradicted the evidence he provided to the inquiry in March.

Tears in Senedd

Vaughan Gething criesVaughan Gething cries

Gething was visibly emotional during his no-confidence vote on Wednesday – PA

Gething has repeatedly stuck to the line that the donations were made in accordance with party protocols and has rejected calls to return the money. But his lack of remorse or responsibility led to Wednesday’s vote of no confidence, which he lost by two votes. He later said he “has made and will continue to make mistakes.”

“It hurts deeply when my intentions are questioned,” Gething added. “I don’t shy away from critical scrutiny and challenges.”

Wales’ shadow Prime Minister, Conservative Andrew RT Davies, said this after the vote The Telegraph: “Both Vaughan Gething and the Labor Party took cash from the donor who caused this stink. Senedd members rightly supported the Welsh Conservatives’ vote of no confidence in Mr Gething. But there are also serious questions for Keir Starmer.”

The vote is non-binding and Gething has insisted he will remain in his post, backed by Sir Keir Starmer, but others are calling for him to resign. Meanwhile, Neal has told Wales Online he feels like a stick with which Gething is beaten. He added: “I never asked or expected anything from Vaughan.” This is undoubtedly not the end of the smell or the story.

David John Neal and the Senedd have been contacted for comment

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